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French Hot Chocolate, Sweet Paris Book Review and a Giveaway

Phew!  After a whirlwind of Diamond Jubilee baking it was nice to get a bit of a break from baking and blogging by escaping to Italy for a few days.  Last week we travelled to Bologna for a short 3 day city break.  It was my first time in Italy and we (my husband, baby and I) had a fabulous time.  The sun was shining, the people were friendly and most importantly the food was amazing, especially the gelato!  

The gelato in Italy is the best ever.  They’ve got an amazing array of flavours, and I think the best one we tried was probably the ricotta and chocolate – who woulda thought!?  A daily gelato (or two!) was essential in helping to cool down in the hot Italian sun, so you can imagine our disappointment when we landed back on UK soil where the wind and rain was there to great us in full force.

The weather has been so rotten in the UK, I’m skeptical as to if summer will actually ever arrive.  The weather so far has been more suited to hot chocolate rather than gelato, and I’m pleased to say I have the perfect recipe!

A month or so ago I was sent a review copy of Sweet Paris by Michael Paul.  The instant I first opened Sweet Paris I knew it was going to go straight to the top of my “favourites” list.  Although I had a fantastic time in Italy, Paris still remains my favourite city to visit and I will definitely be taking my copy of Sweet Paris with me on my next visit there in August.

Sweet Paris isn’t your typical recipe book.  It’s filled with insider knowledge on the best places in Paris to find traditional French desserts and treats such as chocolate eclairs, macarons, strawberry tarts, brioche, creme brulee, salted butter caramel, and of course – hot chocolate.  A brief history of some of the major Parisian patisserie shops are included, as well as a history of many of the featured desserts.  There is a great selection of recipes that compliment the written content of the book as well, and I had a really hard time deciding on which one to make.  In the end I settled on the hot chocolate, and as well as a spur of the moment apple tarte tatin.

Sweet Paris is made up of seven chapters and also includes several pages of addresses so you can easily find your favourite pastry shop while your there.  The thing that really makes Sweet Paris stand out from the other books on my shelf is the photography.  The pages are filled with stunning images of Parisian pastries, pastry shops and every day images of Paris. I could stare at the photos all day long!

Some of the recipes that I’ve bookmarked to make in the future are:  

Classic French Chocolate Eclairs
Traditional Tart au Citron
Bittersweet Tarte au Chocolate
Homemade Blackcurrant Sorbet with Cassis
Classic Caramel au Beurre Sale 

I’d been looking for an authentic French hot chocolate recipe ever since I had my first encounter with it at the infamous Parisian tea salon Angelina.  The hot chocolate at Angelinia was so rich, thick and chocolately I couldn’t finish the whole thing.  Although it was delicious, it’s definitely not something I could drink on a regular basis.  The recipe for hot chocolate in Sweet Paris is just right – it’s still delicious and chocolately, but not overwhelming enough that you couldn’t finish the whole cup!

Old Fashioned French Hot Chocolate 
Serves 4


1 Vanilla Pod 
600ml (20oz) Whole Milk
250ml (9oz) Single Cream
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Pinch of Sea Salt
150g (5 1/2oz) Bittersweet Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
100g (3 1/2oz) Milk Chocolate , finely chopped
300ml (10 1/2oz) Double Cream, whipped


1.  Slice the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  In a large saucepan, add the vanilla pod and seeds to the milk, cream, brown sugar and salt.  Warm over low heat and bring to a simmer, but don’t boil.

2.  Remove the milk mixture from the heat, and then remove the vanilla pod.  Add in the milk and dark chocolates and stir gently until they’re melted and the mixture becomes smooth.  Using a hand whisk, whisk the hot chocolate mixture for a few minutes until it’s smooth and frothy.

3.  Return the hot chocolate to the stove and re-heat again to a gentle simmer (not boiling).  Pour into cups and serve with whipped cream on top.

I served my hot chocolate with whipped cream on the side, just like they do at Angelina in Paris.

I also made the Apple Tarte Tatin when I needed a last minute dessert idea.  It was the first time I’d made a tarte tatin and it was delicious and so simple, only requiring a few ingredients.  I took a few pictures of it using my iphone before we gobbled it up.  

I can’t wait to try more recipes from Sweet Paris, and also explore some of the many pastry shops and tea salons listed in the book.  As I mentioned before, I will definitely be bringing my copy with me when I go to Paris in August.

Now here’s some good news – it’s GIVEAWAY time!!! I’ve got an extra copy of Sweet Paris to give away to one of my lucky readers!  

To have a chance at winning, simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite Paris pastry is.  It could be macarons, eclairs, brioche – you decide!  Additional entries will be given by doing the following:

  • Become a follower on Google+ (I just joined this week!)
  • Become a fan on Facebook
  • Become a follower on Google Friend Connect
Links to all of the above are in the right hand column.  Maximum of 4 entries per person.  The winning comment will be chosen at random.

Open to UK residents only.  Contest closes at 11:59pm Monday June 25th.  Winner will be announced shortly after.  

*** Please note that you MUST leave a comment below in order to be entered into the prize draw, otherwise I have no way of keeping track of who, followed etc.  If you make a comment anonymously then please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. You should leave a separate comment for each of the 3 things listed above if you want to be entered more than once.  I will be using to choose a number from all of the comments listed below in order to determine the winner. ***

With thanks to Hardie Grant Publishing for my review copy of Sweet Paris. 

Stuffed French Toast & A Visit From The Fairy Hobmother!

Stuffed French Toast is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to try, but never actually got around to doing.  During my visits back home to Canada and while on holiday in the US, stuffed french toast was always one of those things on a menu that called my name, yet for some reason I just never ordered it.  Then before I knew it, my holiday would be over, and I’d have to fly back to the UK where sweet and yummy treats just don’t make their way onto the breakfast table – it’s just sausages, beans, mushrooms, fried eggs and grilled tomatoes here I’m afraid.  

Because I always seem to miss the opportunity to order stuffed french toast while on holiday, it’s been on my “to bake” list for quite some time now.   The other thing that’s been on my “to bake” list for even longer is cinnamon raisin bread.  I have a strange obsession with cinnamon raisin bread.  It’s one of my favorite things to eat in the morning, all nice and toasted with a bit of melty butter on top!  

I’d been on the hunt for a good cinnamon raisin bread recipe for ages, but it seemed like every one I came across needed a bread maker.  And since I didn’t have a bread maker, my search for the perfect recipe continued without much success.  So when I recently came across a blog post on Lay The Table saying that the Fairy Hobmother would grant one readers wish, I got super excited and commented straight away, wishing for a bread maker (or an ice cream maker – I couldn’t decide!). 

If you’re a regular reader of blogs in the UK, then you’re probably pretty familiar with The Fairy Hobmother.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Fairy Hobmother, she (aka: he) works for Appliances Online, and spends her days visiting blogs and granting wishes! Pretty cool huh?

So, about a month ago I was surprised, but thrilled to see an email in my inbox from the Fairy Hobmother letting me know that my wish had been granted!!  Since I had wished for an ice cream maker or a bread maker, I was told that I could have my choice as to which one I wanted.  It was a hard decision, but I ended up going with the bread maker after remembering all those times I had wanted to bake cinnamon raisin bread, but was never able to.

A few days later, my brand new shiny bread maker arrived, and I have to say I’ve really been enjoying it!  The great thing about this bread maker (Morphy Richards Daily Loaf) is that it makes loaves 1/2 the size of regular loaves, which is perfect if you live alone, or if you don’t eat a lot of bread (like my husband and I).  So far I’ve made several types of bread, but of course cinnamon raisin had to be the first!  Because this bread maker makes a smaller loaf than normal, I decided it was probably best to use the recipes that were supplied with the machine.  I won’t bother including the recipe since most people probably don’t have this bread maker, but if I could say one thing about it, it would be that I would double the cinnamon and raisins as I didn’t think there was enough of either in the bread, but never the less it was still good.  

So after baking my first loaf of cinnamon raisin bread I decided it would be the perfect excuse to bake stuffed french toast with.  I made my stuffed french toast by cutting extra thick slices of my cinnamon raisin bread, and then making an incision in the bottom of the slice where I could put the filling.  I think this is probably the best way of making stuffed french toast, but if you can’t find unsliced loaves of bread, then you can use 2 slices of regular bread, but you’ll just need to be careful not to overfill them with the filling, because it will leak out the sides.

Cinnamon Raisin Stuffed French Toast


4 thick slices of cinnamon raisin bread

6oz (170g) Cream Cheese
1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon

2 Eggs
2/3 Cup (160ml) Milk
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of salt 


1.  Using a sharp knife, make a cut in the bottom of each slice of bread and carefully work your way up 3/4 of the way inside so a little pocket forms.  Set aside

2.  In a small bowl, whip or mix the cream cheese, sugar and cinnamon together until well combined.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a large metal tip with the cream cheese mixture (if you don’t have a piping bag – don’t worry, you can use a small spoon – a piping bag is just easier). Now take your pieces of bread and insert the metal tip into the opening you cut earlier.  Squeeze gently until you’ve filled the inside pocket of your bread with the cream cheese mixture.  If you don’t have a piping bag, just use a small spoon to carefully spoon the cream cheese mixture into the pocket, making sure not to tear the bread.  Do not overfill.

3.  In a shallow container whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.  Heat a non stick frying pan over medium high heat, and coat with non stick cooking spray or a bit of butter or non stick cooking spray.  Pick up a piece of the prepared bread with a fork and lay it flat in the milk and egg mixture.  Let the bread soak up a bit of the liquid (approx 30 seconds) before flipping over to soak the other side (again for approx 30 seconds).  Place in pan, and cook until golden brown before flipping. Once both sides are cooked, place the French toast on a place and sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with syrup.

Tip:  Immediately after placing the soaked bread in the frying pan, I place a lid over the bread in order to help cook the bread thoroughly and prevent it from getting soggy.   
I’m really loving my new bread maker, and I still quite can’t believe that the Fairy Hobmother chose to grant my wish!  And here’s the best part of the whole thing – I can now pass my luck on to someone else, and it could be you!  All you have to do is leave a comment below telling the Fairy Hobmother what you wish for and it may just come true!!  If you need some inspiration for your wish, then pop on over to Appliances Online – they’ve got some great things there – especially the Pink Smeg Fridge
Good Luck!!!!

French Crepes with Salted Caramel

A friend from work recently went to the Brittany, France and brought me back some salted caramel in a jar.  Salted caramel is quite common in certain parts of France, specifically Brittany.  I’m not quite sure how to describe the flavour of salted caramel, but it’s delicious,  It’s not really salty, and it’s not overly sweet.  I’ve only had salted caramel in macarons before, so  I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to use my big jar of it.  Another friend recommended spreading it on some crusty French bread or dipping sliced apples into it.  Although both of the suggestions sounded good, I wanted to save my jar of salted caramel for something special. Hmm, what would go well with French salted caramel?  How about French crepes! Creperies are all over France, but admittingly I’ve never been to one.  In fact, the only time I’ve had a crepe outside of my own home was from a street vendor in Paris where it was served with warm Nutella.  Delicious!  

I hadn’t made crepes in ages, and I’m not really sure why to be honest.  They’re so easy to make because they only require a few ingredients that you’ve probably already got in your cupboards at home.  I had originally planned on making a crepe filled with sauteed spiced apples mixed in with a bit of the salted caramel, but I didn’t have any apples at home.  Instead, I kept them really simple by folding the crepes into triangles and drizzling them with the warm salted caramel sauce.  They were delicious!  But because it had been so long since I’d made crepes I wanted to try them with a few different toppings.  
Salted Caramel 

Blueberry – these were nice and light.  They would also be nice with a little bit of whipped cream on them.

Nutella – these were also very good, but I should have heated up my Nutella first before putting it on the crepe.
I actually don’t have a picture of my favourite topping, but it was a combination of the Nutella spread on the inside of the crepe and then drizzled with the warm salted caramel sauce on top. It was the prefect combination of sweet and salty.  It was fabulous, and I’m definitely going to be making crepes again with these 2 toppings combined together.  If you’re interested in making your own crepes I used the recipe below. 

 I halved the recipe and it made 5 crepes.  Yes – I halved an egg…

French Crepes:
1 cup (110g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups (500ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons (30ml) melted butter 

1) Sift together flour, sugar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk and vanilla together with an electric mixer. Beat in flour mixture until smooth; stir in melted butter. 

2) Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup (60ml) for each crepe. Tip and rotate pan to spread batter as thinly as possible. Brown on both sides and serve hot.  

Whenever I think of crepes I automatically think of dessert crepes, but there are so many savoury options out there as well.  Back when I lived in Canada there was a crepe place in the Vancouver BC ferry terminal.  I always wanted to try one, but they always seemed so expensive so I never bothered.  The one that stands out in my mind had ham, cheese and mushrooms in it. It was always so neat to watch them making their huge crepes and adding in the fillings before folding them up.  Sadly my crepe making technique isn’t quite as refined, but I’m pretty satisfied with my results.  I have a feeling savoury crepes will be making an appearance at my dinner table in the near future.  If you’d prefer to make a savoury crepe rather than a sweet crepe simply omit the vanilla and reduce (or remove) the sugar in the crepe batter.

French Toast

There’s nothing I love more than to sit down to a freshly cooked breakfast on a Saturday morning.  For most North Americans a typical weekend breakfast would be a hearty omelet or something nice and sweet like pancakes, French toast or waffles, all topped off with syrup or fruit and whipped cream.  During my time in the UK I’ve found that people here just don’t really appreciate a sugary start to their weekend as much as we do back home.  A typical weekend breakfast for my friends here in the UK is a full English breakfast, commonly known as a “fry up”.  The English breakfast consists of eggs, back bacon and/or sausages, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans and fried bread or toast.  Since I grew up in Canada I have what I call a “Saturday Sweet Tooth”.  It’s been quite a while since I made French toast, so I figured it was about time I made a batch.  
Start out with the basics – milk and eggs. Add in some cinnamon and nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla.
You’ll also need some equipment – a non-stick frying pan, a whisk and some measuring cups and spoons. And remember, everything tastes better when it’s made with PINK!


Whisk everything together in a dish that’s wide enough for the bread to lay down in.  Dip each piece of bread in the liquid and fry until golden brown on each side.

Pour on some syrup and enjoy.

Ta da!!!!!

Spiced French Toast:

2 eggs
cup (160 ml) milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
6 thick slices of bread
In a shallow container whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.  Heat a non stick frying pan over medium high heat, and coat with non stick cooking spray or a bit of butter (see below).  Pick up a piece of bread with a fork and lay it flat in the milk and egg mixture.  Let the bread soak up a bit of the liquid (approx 20-30 seconds) before flipping over to soak the other side (again for 20-30 seconds).  Place in pan, and cook until golden brown before flipping. Once both sides are cooked, place the French toast on a place and sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with syrup or berries and whipped cream.

•    I prefer to use bread from the bakery that hasn’t been pre-sliced, and is nearing its expiry date. The crustier the bread the better, that way it won’t get too soggy and fall apart when you soak it in the egg/milk mixture.  It also helps to cut your bread in thicker slices than you would normally.  A French baguette also works well with this recipe.
•    Immediately after placing the soaked bread in the frying pan, place a lid over the bread in order to help cook the bread thoroughly and prevent it from getting soggy.
•    Non-stick cooking spray helps cut down on calories, but also doesn’t burn as much as butter will.  Burnt butter will affect the taste your French toast and cause it to turn quite dark.  If you’d like you can spread a bit of butter on the French toast once it’s on your plate before drizzling with syrup.

I haven’t been able to find aerosol non-stick cooking spray here in the UK.  In fact the only thing I’ve been able to find is an olive oil pump spay, which works well for cooking, but doesn’t coat baking pans nearly as well as the aerosol stuff.  Luckily when we were in Texas a few months ago I picked up a can of the aerosol kind – it was even butter flavored!!!

I prefer to top my French toast off with syrup, and for me it’s gotta be Aunt Jemima!  Real pancake syrup was one of the first “North American” things I really missed when I moved here.  The UK sells something called Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which was the closest thing to pancake syrup I could find, but for me it didn’t really come close.  The taste was totally different, and the consistency is a lot thicker than the syrup I’m used to.  Syrup in the UK is considered more of a dessert topping, and is often used on ice cream as well as waffles (which are much smaller than the ones in North America) and pancakes (which are closer to a crepe), both of which are more typically eaten as a dessert or “pudding” as it’s known in the UK.  Above are bottles of syrup from Canada, the US and the UK. Whenever I go back to North America I come back with an extra suitcase filled with food and baking supplies!  

On a side note, I found it interesting to compare my Canadian Aunt Jemima to the bottle I picked up in the US.  Although the name is the same “Aunt Jemima – Butter Flavored Syrup” the ingredients are very different. The Canadian version is made with regular sugar, while the American version is made with high fructose corn syrup.  I wonder if the corn syrup version will taste as good.  I’ll report back in a few months…..

Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles

Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles

A couple of weeks ago I told you about my fondness for breakfast when I posted the recipe for my delicious and healthy gluten free coconut protein pancakes.  I’ve been on a major breakfast kick lately.  Probably because I’ve got a 3 and a half year old who’s sole mission in life is to not let me sleep past 8am.  So for the first time in my life I’m being forced to get up at a normal hour on weekends. So rather than sleep for an additional 3 hours like I’d like to do, I’m making breakfast instead. I’m not talking Cheerios or Rice Krispies. I’m talking about good hearty breakfasts. The kind I dream about ordering at restaurants when I’m organised enough to make it out the front door before they stop serving it.  And although those breakfasts are super good, they’re not always super healthy.

Fresh Fruit

I’m a sucker for sweet stuff, and breakfast is no exception. Waffles, French Toast, Pancakes.  I’ve been trying to find new ways of enjoying healthier versions of my favourite breakfasts.  My coconut protein pancakes were so delicious, that I couldn’t wait to try developing more healthy breakfast options. I knew that part of creating healthier breakfasts would involve cutting out the sugar. But I still needed to satisfy my sweet tooth. Cue Natvia sweetener to the rescue!

Natvia is a 100% natural stevia based sweetener, that’s the perfect alternative to sugar.  It’s available in the UK through Ocado, and is a great replacement to the sugar in your daily coffee.  And best of all, you can cook and bake with it.  There are zero calories per serving, making it the perfect alternative to sugar in my healthy breakfasts. I’ve been using Natvia for a few weeks now as a replacement to the sugar in my coffee and in some of my baking, and it’s been great!

Natvia sweetener

Not only did I want my breakfast to be sugar free, but I also wanted to try and create something that was gluten free as well.  I’m not gluten intolerant, but I know a lot of people who are, so I’m hoping they’ll enjoy this recipe too. Finally, I wanted to incorporate two of my favourite things at the moment – lemon and waffles.

Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles

Baking with gluten free flour is totally different than baking with regular flour, but after a lot of experimenting and several attempts using various amounts of gluten free flour and other ingredients, I came up with a recipe I’m really happy with.  These waffles are the capture the perfect flavour of sweet and zesty lemon, along with some poppy seeds thrown in for good measure. They remind me of my favourite lemon poppyseed cake that my mum used to make when I was a kid. So in a way, it’s kind of like having cake for breakfast.

Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles

Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles

Instead of pouring loads of unhealthy sugary syrup on top of my yummy healthy sugar and gluten free lemon poppyseed waffles, I piled on a fresh julienne fruit salad with some homemade raspberry sauce. So good. Seriously. Soooo good!

Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles

These waffles are my new favourite breakfast. They’re perfectly crisp on the outside, while remaining light and fluffy on the inside. The sweet and zesty lemon flavour is so refreshing, especially with the fresh fruit and raspberry sauce.  I sat outside in the sunshine eating these, and instantly felt like I was dining in a 5 star tropical resort. I could just imagine myself being served these for breakfast looking out over a tropical ocean. If any resort head chefs decide to add these waffles to their menu, your guests will love you. Just make sure to give me the credit ok 😉

Sugar and Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles


    For the Raspberry Sauce:
  • 200g Fresh Raspberries
  • 1 tsp Natvia Sweetener
  • For the Waffles:
  • 1 3/4 Cup (250g) Gluten Free Flour (I use Dove's Farm)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp Natvia Sweetener
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest (zest from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Tbsp Coconut Oil, melted
  • 2 tsp Poppy Seeds


    For the Raspberry Sauce:
  1. Using a hand blender, puree the raspberries into a liquid.
  2. Pour the liquid raspberries though a sieve to remove the seeds. If you don't mind the seeds, then omit this step.
  3. Stir in Natva sweetener.
  4. For the Waffles:
  5. Pre-heat waffle iron. Combine the Natvia sweetener and lemon zest in a small bowl, and stir gently to infuse the zest with the Natvia. Set aside.
  6. Whisk the egg yolk, almond milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract in a large jug / measuring cup. Set aside.
  7. Combine the flour, Natvia and lemon zest, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
  8. Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, whisking gently until incorporated. Whisk in the melted coconut oil.
  9. Using a separate clean whisk and bowl, whisk the egg whites into soft peaks. Fold the whipped egg whites into the liquid and flour mixture.
  10. Pour the batter into the hot waffle iron, and cook until golden brown.
  11. Serve with raspberry sauce, and your choice of fruit (I used julienne melon, pear, and mango).

Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles

These waffles will freeze brilliantly, making future breakfasts a breeze. To re-warm them, simply defrost, and cook in a pre-heated waffle iron for a minute or two.

I’m pleased to say that I’m linking up my Sugar & Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Waffles to this month’s Breakfast Club, hosted by non other than myself!


This post has been commissioned by Natvia Sweetener.